The number of households receiving emergency rental assistance saw an uptick in September. According to the Department of Treasury, state and local governments distributed nearly $2.8 billion in funding to more than 510,000 households last month, up from 459,000 in August. Through Sept. 30, state, local, and tribal governments made over 2 million payments to households and distributed over $10 billion of the nearly $47 billion in emergency rental assistance funds Congress authorized in two tranches.
The September data provided the first look into emergency rental assistance distribution since the Supreme Court overturned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide eviction moratorium at the end of August. The emergency rental assistance program is on track to make over 3 million payments by the end of the year at the current rate. Data from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, according to Treasury, suggests there has been no major national spike in evictions with filings remaining below historical averages.
Nearly all jurisdictions reported continued growth last month. In addition, many of the grantees that were slow to deliver assistance initially reported significant improvement as they adopted more of Treasury’s application and procedural flexibilities, streamlined operations, and reduced application backlogs.
Some key recent findings regarding state and local distribution include:
- Los Angeles more than doubled its disbursements from $32 million in August to $72 million in September;
- Illinois increased 185% month over month—from $62 million in August to $177 million in September;
- Michigan, Minnesota, and North Carolina increased their overall expenditure ratios more than 14% from August to September, each simplifying their applications processes for households through enhanced reliance on self-attestation; and
- The coordinated programs for the city and county of Durham, North Carolina, increased their expenditure ratio by 34% in September, attributing that boost to contracting with nonprofit community-based organizations that are working with residents and landlords—especially those with language or technical challenges—to speed up the application process. These localities also integrated social workers into the court system to ensure people facing eviction get the help they need to apply for the emergency rental assistance.
While less than a quarter of the emergency rental assistance funds have been disbursed, the National Apartment Association (NAA) and National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) issued a statement that more needs to be done to get the aid out to residents and housing providers.
“After a year and a half of pandemic-related costs, the nation’s housing providers and residents continue to face serious challenges meeting their financial obligations. Residents are struggling to pay their rent, and property owners always had to continue paying their taxes, mortgages, payroll, insurance costs, and more. Housing providers across the country are facing untold millions of dollars in rental arrears,” stated the organizations. “Accordingly, it is critical that rental assistance funds are distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
NAA and NMHC, on behalf of the nation’s 40.1 million individuals who call an apartment home, are calling on policymakers to make the following improvements to expedite the rental assistance distribution:
- Reject the addition of counterproductive eviction moratorium provisions;
- Direct grantees to allow housing providers the ability to apply on behalf of residents under a notification safe harbor, prioritize arrearages, and remove the 18-month limit on assistance; and
- Allow the emergency rental assistance program to reimburse property owners, without qualification, on units where a renter has moved out.
“Without action to improve disbursement of the emergency rental assistance program and increased participation in the program, renters are faced with further uncertainty and a mounting debt cliff, while rental property owners move closer to foreclosure, bankruptcy, or a forced sale of the property—putting the overall stability of the rental housing sector and broader real estate market in peril,” said the NAA and NMHC.
With the state and local governments starting to distribute more funds each month, according to Treasury, it soon will begin the process of recapturing excess funds from allocations that exceed a jurisdiction’s needs or administrative capacity and reallocate to areas with demonstrated needs for the assistance, as required by the first round of emergency rental assistance statute.
Starting in mid-November, Treasury will make determinations of excess funds. It will work to prioritize requests from grantees in the same state where the funds were initially allocated as the recaptured funds become available. The remainder will be available for reallocation nationwide, with priority going to grantees who are on track to distribute their remaining funds.
In September, Treasury also began distributing the remaining funds available under the second round of emergency rental assistance authorized under the American Rescue Plan. These payments have been made to state and local governments that have already substantially expended their first round of funds and at least 75% of the initial second-round disbursements received in May.
According to Treasury, dozens of cities and counties, in addition to multiple states, have met the threshold and received their remaining second-round funds. The department is also reminding grantees that they may use their Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery program funds toward rental assistance initiatives.